A. The Helsinki-Vantaa airport welcomed COVID-19-sniffing dogs to their staff last week, hoping to use their keen sense of smell to detect COVID-19 positive patients up to 5 days before symptoms appear. Dubai International Airport also has a team of dogs sniffing for COVID-19.
Here’s how the airport testing works: Prospective passengers rub a wipe against their neck to pick up some sweat, and then drop the wipe in a cup. While inside an isolated booth, the trained pup takes a whiff of the cup and provides a positive or negative verdict. If the dog sniffs a positive, he creates an audible signal. Then, the passenger is informed and sent to the airport’s health information area. This is much quicker and less invasive than a nasal swab. If this pilot program is successful, the goal in Finland is to train and distribute dogs around the country to provide early COVID-19 detection in schools, malls, hospitals, and retirement homes. Perhaps you’ll be seeing them at an airport near you.
The Dear Pandemic team is cheering on innovations that allow for easy and widespread testing, including sewage tests, medical detection canines, and antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests. If you don’t have access to those options, there’s always the sniff-your-dirty-socks test. If your nose can’t smell your stinky feet, then stay home!
While widespread testing is certainly part of a comprehensive public health response, testing alone is not enough:
A positive test should be followed by isolation, appropriate care, and contact tracing. Follow the guidelines of the CDC and your health care provider.
Also, a negative test does not mean that you are free and clear to return to normal times. Continue to social distance, avoid indoor gatherings, and wear a mask outside your household.
We wrote about the science behind medical detection dogs in a prior post.